New movements tend to stall when the "in group" want to keep the movement within the
The same may be true for blogging. The number of people that know about what a blog is among my clients is very small. Intuitively I would say less than 2%. What would put them off? Anything technical. Blogging has to be made really easy.
Why do I mention St Paul? At the outset of Christianity there was a huge debate. The "In Group" as lead by the surviving disciples of Jesus insisted that to be a Christian you had to be a Jew. This meant adult circumcision for the men and backseat behind a screen for the women. Quite a "technical" hurdle!!!. Paul argued that all men and women should be able to become Christians - guess who won? Pride in coping with the technical sides of blogging is a block for take-up.
The real opportunity is when a group of "Ingroup folks" maybe like "socialtext" really engage with organizational life and find the fit. Step 1 has to be"Easy does it" Easy does it demands that anyone who can type can set up a good blog and that there are a number of great templates. We are exploring Typepad to see if we can make it even easier.
Step two has to be finding the immediate felt benefit. This is more challenging and I think demands that we find parts of an organization where building a community will help - maybe in the entire support area. This is where the whole KM issue rears its head. The idea of content management is an exceptionally stupid idea that flies in the face of how we understand knowledge. Only a small fraction of knowledge is explicit - the vast bulk is implicit - ie it is ten times better to talk to someone about an issue than to try and find what he has written about it. Who wants a manual when you can be walked through? BP has been a leader here in seeing that their key system issues is to find a way of connecting people with questions to people with answers. Each employee has a personal website that amongst other things has a lot of info about what they know. The deal at BP is that if you have question you search for the person.
Why should we care anyway? Blogging is our path back to being human at work. Blogging reveals who we are to not only others but more importantly to ourselves. For the first time mankind - the great tool maker - who has used tool making ingenuity to make the world and himself into a tool, or a thing, has created a tool that renews and brings back what it is to be human.
So like Paul - we are faced with an historic choice. We can relegate blogging to geekiness and tool making or we can work to change our relationships back from machine to human.
What do I mean by this bold statement? We can change democracy by making it essential for politicians to be real and to listen to us. We can get the issues that make sense on the table other than spin. We can make management of organizations transparent and give organizations a human Cluetrain voice. We can change how we learn - from each other rather than from institutions. We can change healthcare by empowering fellow sufferers to help each other rather than to rely on the priests of medicine. We so change the world as Paul did.
Blogs for What Business?. Jimmy Guterman's new piece on business blogging (sub. required) is sure to cause a stir. He charges the blogging community as being "self-absorbed and elitist" and says its not essential for business. He cites a Forrester study to back up his claims:
You don't have to believe me on this. Finally, some data asserts that blogs are hardly a popular pursuit. If anything, blogging is more marginal than its critics contend. Forrester Research (FORR) conducted an online survey of 3,673 people and found that 79 percent of its respondents had never heard of blogs, 98 percent had never read one, and 98 percent said they'd never pay to read or write one. Blogs can be wonderful things, but if a mere 2 percent of Internet users read blogs, the pastime is far from mainstream. The Forrester survey notes that the typical blog reader has been using the Web for an average of six years. For the most part, blogs feature the Net elite writing to the Net elite. This continues to be the case only as long as the elite are underemployed.
I believe what Jimmy is saying is that there isn't a consumer market for blogging and that it isn't essential for businesses to address it. The problem is we are at the very beginning of a technology adoption lifecycle. Some serious companies have forecasted this market to grow and made their bets accordingly. Every time a journalist tries to wrap themselves around the existing market, what's visible are early adopters. What stands out are the leaders in using blogs for publishing, who benefit from preferential attachment as the earliest entrants. And if you take the innovator dialogue to seriously it looks like a one ring circus.
The other story folks pick up on is unclueful attempts by businesses and PR firms to market to bloggers as an emerging and influential segment. Any attempt to treat bloggers as a segment will fail. Today the influence of participants who act more as producers than consumers is the attraction. The number of participants is growing at 400% per year, and that's before AOL's entry.
But the real story in the consumer market is how increasing numbers of real people are using blogs , but as a way to communicate an form their own communities. Its that skinny tail of the power-law distribution that's going to wag the market. A way to share with friends, communicate post-by-post and remain open to new people joining your community. Conversational Networks provide the most value to your average Jane.
Rick Bruner does make the case that there are lots of businesses using blogs in the consumer market and points out this is like the web in 1995 and where the weblog as publishing market is headed. And many of them are making money. I agree that more evidence in this area would help, always does, but give it time for these new ventures to tell their story.
There is another story of weblogs and business that is less visible because the real action is behind the firewall. At Socialtext we are adapting weblogs for use within enterprises. Weblogs are one Enterprise Social Software tool, because they are necessary but not sufficient for communication and collaboration.
The enterprise market is entirely different than the consumer market. What is in common is an efficient, and dare I say fun, way of having conversations that contribute to productivity. Maybe its time we start telling more of our customer stories, but the distinction between consumer and enterprise needs to be made. [Corante: Social Software]